Red Velvet Heart

heart diagram
I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I get lovin’ all year long, and I don’t need a box of chocolates to prove it. But I live in the world, and I do try to be socially conscious. That’s why I enjoy making a heart cake … a literal heart cake. Its made with red velvet cake, for a real hearty-presentation.

I love this cake, and I must admit that I am a bit dismayed to see it all over the place lately. Every cutesy cupcake shop and fresh faced pastry chef is using it. So much for my secret recipe.

Here is my recipe, which is authentic. It is an old-fashioned recipe that I got from a real old-fashioned southern belle. You can tell this recipe is old, because the cake is leavened by vinegar and baking soda. This is how all cakes and cookies were leavened before the advent of baking powder (a product that premixes the baking soda and acid for you). I like the flavor the vinegar imparts. To me, that flavor makes this cake special.

Real red-velvet cake should never be bright red. It’s a deep, dark red, like Scarlet’s dress. The color is achieved with a ton of food coloring and a touch of cocoa powder. Traditionally this cake is paired with cream cheese frosting, but I also like to cover it with 7-minute icing.


1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 TB. cocoa powder
1/4 cup red food coloring
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 TB. cider vinegar

For the Frosting:
4oz. (1 stick) butter, softened
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1 TB. vanilla
2 (1 lb.) boxes powdered sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two 10-inch round cake pans with butter and parchment paper. In a large bowl use a sturdy spoon or electric mixer to combine the oil, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk. In a separate bowl combine the cocoa and the food coloring, mix well, and add. Add the sifted flour and salt, and mix thoroughly. In a small bowl combine baking soda and vinegar, and mix until foamy. Add immediately to batter and stir just to combine. Divide batter between 2 pans and bake at 350˚F for 30-45 minutes, until a pick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a rack. Cool completely.
  2.  For the frosting, cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla with a sturdy spoon or electric mixer until lump-free. Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Using a small serrated knife, shape the cake into a human heart shape (it’s a lot like a heart … go figure.)
  4.  Remove 1/2 of the frosting into a clean bowl and color it red. Use this color to frost the entire heart. Reserve any leftover red icing.
  5.  Mix 1/2 of the remaining icing with blue color. Transfer to a piping bag with a plain tip and pipe on the atrium, vena cava, and pulmonary trunk. Combine the red and blue remaining icing with the remaining white, mix it into purple, and use it to pipe the aorta. Use what’s left in the bags to pipe on a few squiggly vein. Now you’re ready for Valentine’s Day!

hearty cake

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